MLB

The Chicago Cubs Have Been Historically Good So Far in 2016

A strike-throwing pitching staff and judicious hitters have the Cubs off to an 8-1 start. But their start has been even bigger than that one-loss record.

The Chicago Cubs were supposed to be good this season. In fact, in our staff predictions piece before the year, everyone picked the North Siders to win the National League Central, with yours truly tabbing them as the World Series champ.

But what they’re doing right now is borderline insane. If this was a video game, they’d need to bump up the artificial intelligence to stay interested.

At 8-1, the Cubs are one of two one-loss teams, along with the Washington Nationals, and their only loss was a one-run defeat -- 3-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks -- back on April 8th. The win-loss record is cute, but it’s Chicago’s run differential which is the real story. Through nine games, the Cubs have outscored their opponents by an absurd 43 runs. 

Yes, 43!

Here’s how that compares to other teams who rank in the top 10 in run differential:

Team Run Differential
Cubs 43
Cardinals 24
Dodgers 19
Tigers 15
Giants 14
Nationals 13
Orioles 13
White Sox 12
Royals 9
Rangers 6


And here's how it stacks up against every team ever through nine games:

The Cubs have been superb on the mound and at the plate, dominating the league in terms of drawing walks as an offense and limiting walks as a pitching staff. Chicago’s pitchers own a league-best 5.6 walk percentage while the hitters boast a league-high 14.3 walk percentage. The Cubs have issued just 17 free passes while their lineup has worked 53 walks. 

They’re walking circles around everyone else.

Team Walks Drawn   Team Walks Issued  
Cubs 53   Cubs 17
Pirates 44   Yankees 20
Cardinals 37   Mets 20
Braves 37   Rays 22
Blue Jays 33   Mariners 23


Chicago’s staff ranks third in xFIP (3.26). Cubs' hitters are fifth in wOBA (.361) and first in on-base percentage (.384). The Cubs are averaging -- averaging! -- 7.1 runs per game. They’ve only been held under four runs once. 

Across all of baseball, there have been 17 games this season where a team won by at least seven runs. The Cubs own four of those wins, including two such victories over the Cincinnati Reds in their last two outings. In the three-game sweep over Cincy, Chicago outscored the Reds 22-6. Cincinnati isn’t the 1927 Yankees, but their players get paid to play baseball.

It’s worth mentioning two things.

First, Chicago has done most of this without Kyle Schwarber, making the scorching start even more impressive. Schwarber, who was lost with an ACL injury in the first series of the year, posted a .364 wOBA with 16 jacks in just 273 plate appearances last season.

Secondly, nine games is obviously an incredibly small sample size. Some team will likely have a stellar nine-game run of dominance in July and no one will notice, but this is the Cubs being the best team in baseball.

It’s not time for rational thinking.